4 Main Differences Between Freeze Drying vs Dehydrating Food

When it comes to freeze drying vs dehydrating food, there are some major differences you need to take into account before you make the decision.

If you’ve come to this page, one thing is for sure—you have food preservation on your mind. Most likely, you’re considering the two most popular methods for preserving foods, freeze-drying and dehydration. While both these options are a great way to increase the shelf life of your food, they do have some major differences that you need to take into account before you make the decision.

To boot, not everybody has the same needs when it comes to preserving food—what works for some might not work for others. So, don’t think there’s one right way to preserve food, it all just depends on what you are looking to achieve and where in your journey of food preservation you are.

#1 Nutritional Value

In comparison to other food preserving methods, dehydrating food is much healthier. In addition to keeping the food from spoiling, it will help preserve most of its nutrients and vitamins. However, one of the differences between freeze drying vs dehydrating food is in the percentage of vitamins and nutrients that remain. Research indicates that freeze drying preserves up to 97% of nutrients and vitamins found in the fresh food. Now, this number varies when it comes to dehydrating. Many dehydrators, like Nesco, claim to preserve up to 97% nutrients and vitamins using their Opaque Vita-Save technology that prevents light from entering. However, this is not the case with all electric dehydrators, neither is it the case for solar dehydrators which preserve 95% of the enzymes in fresh foods.

#2 Shelf Life

Both freeze drying foods and dehydrating them will allow you to preserve and keep foods for a long time. The questions is, what’s long enough for you? If you’re using a regular home dehydrator, you’ll be able to consume the dried foods for 1 to 2 years after you’ve desiccated it—the exact time will depend on the storage conditions such as temperature (cold temperatures will prolong shelf life). Freeze-drying on the other hand can keep food edible for up to 25 years. So, can we say freeze-drying wins this round? Of course! However, you may not need food preservation for such long periods of time. Thus, the question becomes, how long do you want your foods to last?

#3 Costs

The most apparent difference in the freeze-drying vs dehydrating food battle is the initial cost. While freeze-drying might have a longer shelf life and yield impressive results, it will come with a hefty price tag to boot. Freeze driers typically cost thousands of dollars. Now, that’s not an investment you can take lightly or a purchase you can make on whim to test and experiment. On the other hand, food dehydrators are reliable, easy to use, and won’t disappoint with the end result, but you won’t need to empty your bank account to get one. You can find some great food dehydrators on the market for under $100! Sure, there are expensive models available too, but even those cost much less in comparison. If you’re a beginner just getting into the world of food preservation, you’ll definitely find more comfort in purchasing a food dehydrator, because even if things don’t work out for you (which is highly unlikely because dehydrating food is not just fun but the end results are spectacular), you won’t suffer too much of a loss.

#4 Preparation

Small but powerful, a home food dehydrator is easy to use. The process of dehydrating food is pretty straightforward—placing the prepared veggies, fruits, or meat on the tray and setting the temperature is all you need to do. Sure, some gadgets have digital display for setting the time as well, but one additional step in this two-step process ain’t that bad after all.

When it comes to freeze-drying though, things are not that simple. Freeze drying food will take more practice. It’s not as straightforward a process as dehydrating, so you will have a little bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t notice the difference.

Freeze Drying vs Dehydrating Food: The Verdict

It’s hard to pick just one winner in this duel, as both food preserving methods have their benefits. If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly method that is affordable and suitable for everyday use, the dehydrator will be the winner for you. However, if budget is not an issue, you don’t mind the learning curve that comes with this process, and you need a versatile machine that will allow you to keep food fresh for decades, a freeze drier is definitely worth the investment. Typically professionals feel comfortable putting in this investment, but if you’re dedicated and perseverant, freeze drying will reap benefits aplenty.

Be sure to do complete research before you pick the exact model of machine you choose. There’s a lot of options in the market and once you’ve chosen the route you’re going, you’ll need to answer the question—Which model is right for me?

Photo credit: Irina Chebotareva

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